America must normalise its engagement of Iran, not further vitiate it
Some analysts believe that the Bush administration’s decision to ratchet up sanctions against Iran is another step towards a pre-determined outcome: war with Iran. It would also be an act of folly.
In announcing sweeping new sanctions against an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, Bush administration officials took pains to offer assurances on Thursday that at least for now, the United States is not going to war with Iran.
“We do not believe that conflict is inevitable,” said R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs. “This decision today supports the diplomacy and in no way, shape or form does it anticipate the use of force.”
The decision thus raised the temperature in American’s ongoing confrontation with Iran over terrorism and nuclear weapons.
“This is a warning shot across the bow, not that the U.S. is going to invade Iran, but that Iran has pushed the level of escalation, particularly inside Iraq, to unacceptable levels,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “In many ways, this kind of warning is more a demonstration of restraint than a signal that we’re going to war.” [NYT]
Sanctions might increase the “temperature” but that’s all they usually do. So other than being a gratuitous signal of hostility—in an already hostile, non-talking terms relationship—sanctions won’t achieve much. It’s not as if the smart people in the United States government do not know this.
If the ostensible reasons to impose sanctions include Iranian support for some factions fighting in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East and its nuclear weapons programme, why would ratcheting up hostility by another level help? It is unclear whether the Bush administration has assessed America’s capability to expand its two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan into one huge Middle Eastern theatre. [It’s a basic question, but after the manifest failures in Iraq that question needs to be asked]
In many ways, India is in a good position to bridge America and Iran, if the former were so inclined. There is a potential opportunity for India to leverage its good relations with both countries and move the region towards greater stability. But even if India had such intentions—creating grand geopolitical opportunities is normally outside India’s syllabus—does it have the capability to execute this? At the very least, instead of trying to rhetorically revive the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in the wake of the crisis over the India-US nuclear deal, it would do well to at least attempt to alter America’s perilous course.